A hardy group of volunteers will assemble at the Deer Creek trailhead at 8 a.m., Saturday, March 10 to restore the neglected grave of a tough Rim Country pioneer.
Bill Gibson has enlisted perhaps a dozen people willing to use supplies donated by Home Depot to restore the remote, overgrown grave of David Gowan, reportedly the first white man to discover of the Tonto Natural Bridge.
The group will assemble at the Deer Creek trailhead, near the rest stop at the junction of the Beeline Highway and the road down to Roosevelt Lake.
Gowan died in the depths of winter near his homestead on Deer Creek after mysteriously taking off his boots and sitting down against a tree. Neighbors went looking for him when he disappeared and buried him in the frozen ground close to where he died.
Gowan lived an adventurous life after he emigrated from Scotland. He served in the Union Navy during the Civil War. After the war, he ran a fishing boat off the coast of California until it sank in a storm, leaving him the sole survivor. Chasing rumors of rich pastureland, Gowan and a partner bought a herd of sheep and headed for Rim Country. The sheep mostly died, but he took up ranching and prospecting — and evading war parties of Apache.
Gibson convinced Home Depot to donate fencing, water and materials and hopes enough people show up for the three-mile-round-trip hike to cut away brush, replace stones and put a fence around the neglected grave.